Fridge and Terps Try to Climb ACC Mountain
By Craig Heist
After a 26-20 win over NC State Saturday, Maryland once again controls its own Atlantic Coast Conference destiny. The climb up the ACC mountain is still a long one, but considering the way this team was playing earlier in the year against the likes of William & Mary, Middle Tennessee State and Florida International, the Terps are making strides in a positive direction.
Those strides, coach Ralph Friedgen says, started with the second half of the West Virginia blowout in Morgantown. His team was down 28-0 after the first quarter and then 38-10 at halftime. Friedgen challenged his players not to quit in the second half even though the game was well out of hand. The Terps gave up just seven points in the second half and Friedgen pointed to that stretch as something his team could build on for the remainder of the season.
No one expected the Terps to beat Georgia Tech but they played well, despite a 27-23 loss. Maryland had a 23-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter only to see the Yellow Jackets score two touchdowns, the last of which was set up by a Lance Ball fumble. Sam Hollenbach got the Terps to a first-and-goal at the 7-yard line in the final minute but couldn't get into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
At his mid-week press conference, coach Ralph Friedgen hinted that he was not happy with Sam Hollenbach's play and hinted that sophomore Jordan Steffy might see some time on the field.
"I'm disappointed in Sam," Friedgen said. "I'd like for him to make a few more plays. I do see Jordan getting better. The better he practices, the better chance he has of playing."
Coach Ralph Friedgen and the Terrapins face Florida State this weekend at Byrd Stadium. (Greg Fiume/Maryland PR)
That didn't happen. Against Virginia, Hollenbach completed 17 of 28 passes for 171 yards and had a 3-yard touchdown run.
After beating the Cavaliers, 28-26, in come-from-behind fashion in Charlottesville, where the Terps hadn't won since 1990, Friedgen hoped the win would get his team started in the right direction.
"I still think we can play better," Friedgen said. "I think we are still a work in progress. I'm hoping that this win will help us see that and get better. We can't just say, 'Oh, we won a big game, that's great.' For me, this is the beginning, not the end. We have to build on this."
And they did.
There were a few things Friedgen wanted to see from his team. He wanted the Terps to come up with turnovers. He wanted to see a more consistent offense with Hollenbach leading the way. And when Maryland had a lead, Friedgen wanted to see his guys put a team away.
The win over NC State had a little bit of everything.
The Terps had a 6-0 lead at halftime on the strength of two Dan Ennis field goals. In the third quarter, two straight NC State turnovers were converted into Maryland touchdowns. In all, the Terps forced three turnovers that led to 17 points.
Hollenbach was efficient in the homecoming game, completing seven of nine pass attempts for 115 yards with no turnovers while rushing for 62 yards on seven carries.
"The defense came up with some big turnovers and we were able to put up the points," Hollenbach said. "That was big to help us get some momentum going into the rest of the year."
The Terps' defense picked off Wolfpack quarterback Daniel Evans twice and sacked him four times. The Wolfpack offensive line had previously allowed just seven sacks in six games.
"We flushed him out of the pocket, and he was able to get out and make a few plays, but he was running sideways a lot," cornerback Josh Wilson said. "He is a great quarterback, but we were able to get him running around and get him flustered."
After missing out on a Bowl game the last two seasons, the Terps (5-2) are now just one win away from becoming Bowl-eligible. Maryland is 2-1 in the ACC and controls its own fate. But it won't be easy.
"I'm hoping we're just starting to hit our peak," Friedgen said. "We better, because it's murderers' row from here on out."
This week at Byrd Stadium the Terps face a Florida State team coming off a loss at home to Boston College. Following the FSU game, the Terps are on the road at Clemson, at home against Miami, on the road at Boston College and then come home to face Wake Forest.
In the ACC's Atlantic division, Clemson, BC and Wake Forest all have one loss, just like the Terps.
The mountain will be tough to climb, but this team is starting to believe Friedgen's preaching.
"Our confidence level is very high right now," linebacker Wesley Jefferson said. "We know we can play with anyone in the league as long as we do what we did (against NC State) and force teams to do what we want them to do."
Issue 1.27: October 26, 2006